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In the wake of George Floyd's murder, this story has seen an organic uptick with our audience. In the effort to be transparent, Upworthy is adding this note up top to reflect that the story was originally published in February, 2020. The original story begins below.

Many people think of "terrorism" and immediately conjure images of ISIS or Al-Qaeda suicide bombers. But in the U.S., terrorism has another face—one that's far more familiar, but just as dangerous.


FBI Director Christopher Wray announced this week that the agency has raised racially-motivated and ethnically-motivated violent extremism to the same threat level as ISIS. At an oversight hearing with the House Judiciary Committee on February 5, Wray explained that race-based terrorism is now considered a "national threat priority," which means it will receive the same resources as international terrorism threats such as ISIS.

RELATED: Most domestic terrorism comes from white supremacists, FBI tells lawmakers

"We're particularly focused on domestic terrorism, especially racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists," said Wray. "Not only is the terror threat diverse, it's unrelenting."

Wray also clarified last year that the vast majority of racially-motivated terrorist attacks in the U.S. are "fueled by some type of white supremacy."

In other words, domestic terrorism is as much of a threat to national security as international terrorism, and most domestic terrorism comes from white supremacists.

Despite a documented rise in race-based hate crimes and ample information on such threats from the intelligence community, the White House has been reticent to address it. In fact, the Trump administration spent its first few years canceling Obama-era grants that funded programs to help fight violent extremism, such as Life After Hate, a non-profit founded by a former skinhead that helps people leave Neo-Nazi and white supremacist movements. It also slashed the office that housed the task force for Countering Violent Extremism.

However, the FBI has been clear on the threat and has been working to address it. Wray says he has now created a "domestic terrorism and hate crimes fusion cell" that combines domestic terror experts and hate crime experts. "They're working together to not just focus on the threats that have already happened but to look ahead around the corner to anticipate where else we need to be," he said.

RELATED: A former white supremacist describes the time he changed his mind and 'life after hate.'

Wray says that domestic terrorists tend to be self-radicalized online. "They choose easily accessible weapons — a car, a knife, a gun, maybe an IED they can build crudely off the internet — and they choose soft targets," Wray said. "That threat is what we assess is the biggest threat to the homeland right now."

The problem is, racially-motivated terrorists are often "lone actors" who go can quickly from rhetoric to violence, so predicting an attack can be a challenge—especially since the FBI focuses specifically on violence, not ideology.

"Our focus is on the violence," Wray said. "We the FBI don't investigate the ideology, no matter how repugnant. We investigate violence. And any extremist ideology, when it turns to violence, we're all over it."

Terrorism of all kinds is, well, terrifying. But while the government pushes more travel bans and a good chunk of Americans equate terrorism with Islam—a religion that nearly a quarter of the humans on Earth belongs to—it's the white supremacist next door who poses the most immediate threat to our nation's security. This is why having white nationalists in the White House is legitimately terrifying. This is why it's wrong to say there are "fine people on both sides" of a rally with Neo-Nazis and protesters of Neo-Nazis. This is why we need to battle white supremacist ideology whenever and wherever we see it, before it has a chance to turn to violence.

Earlier this week, the Syrian army drove ISIS out of the city of Palmyra, which contains a spectacular set of ancient structures dating back nearly 2,000 years.

Palmyra after its recapture by the Syrian army. Photo by Maher al Mounes/Getty Images.


The UNESCO World Heritage Site was first captured by the militant group in May 2015.

These striking images, captured by photographer Maher al Mounes after the battle, show what remains of the historic site after nearly a year of ISIS occupation. The militant group has destroyed many monuments across Iraq and Syria that it considers blasphemous to its hard-line version of Islam.

Unsurprisingly, there's a fair bit of bad news — but also a lot of good.

ISIS initially promised it would level any parts of Palmyra that it deemed as promoting idolatry, but miraculously much of the old city is still standing.

Photo by Maher al Mounes/Getty Images.

That includes the city's citadel, which was the site of some of the fighting.

Photo by Stringer/AFP/Getty Images.

And these columns, lining a Roman-era street.

Photo by Maher al Mounes/Getty Images.

This stunning amphitheater remains largely intact.


Photo by Maher al Mounes/Getty Images.

Its magnificent entryway was, thankfully, spared as well.

Photo by Maher al Mounes/Getty Images.

Unfortunately, this entryway is all that remains of the Temple of Bel, a pre-Islamic house of worship from the first century AD, that ISIS leveled in September 2015.

Photo by Maher al Mounes/Getty Images.

The city's famous Triumphal Arch (Arc de Triomphe), which straddled a road that dates back to the Roman Empire, was also destroyed by the militant group.

Photo by Maher al Mounes/Getty Images.

While we celebrate the recapture — and mourn the loss — of the ancient city, it's important to note that this is what modern-day Palmyra and the towns surrounding it look like after 10 months of occupation and fighting:

Photo by Maher al Mounes/Getty Images.

According to NPR, most of the city's residents fled when it was overrun by ISIS last year. The rest were either killed or moved with ISIS deeper into its territory.

A U.N. analysis found that 11,000 people were displaced by the initial invasion, many of whom were forced to take shelter in neighboring towns.

Since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, a staggering 4.8 million people have fled the country.

In the coming months, archeologists plan to assess the damage to the ancient city and see what can be restored.

Photo by Maher al Mounes/Getty Images.

Much of the historic site may be rebuilt, in time. Syrian director of antiquities Maamoun Abdelkarim recently told The Guardian that he believes his team has more than enough images and materials to reconstruct the city's temples.

Reversing the damage is going to take time, effort, and money — but many are joining the cause.

In addition to the Syrian government's efforts, groups around the world are pitching in. A Boston-based group of researchers has launched an international effort to build a master list of sites that are most at-risk and are soliciting donations to help fund their intervention.

And UNESCO has launched an awareness campaign to draw attention to the threat to Syria's major historic landmarks.

These are critically important steps. But all the awareness in the world could easily be for naught without an end to the violence in Syria.

Photo by Maher al Mounes/Getty Images.

Not just for its people, but its history as well.

On the day of the deadliest terrorist attack in Europe since the November shootings in Paris, President Barack Obama gave a historic speech in Havana, Cuba — and then went to a baseball game.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.


In a mid-game interview with ESPN, Obama addressed the violence in Belgium.

"This is just one more example of why the entire world has to unite against these terrorists," Obama said. "The notion that any political agenda would justify the killing of innocent people like this is something that’s beyond the pale. We are going to continue with the over 60 nations that are pounding ISIL, and we’re going to go after them."

Later in the interview, ESPN's Karl Ravich asked Obama if he "considered not coming to the game," given the tragedy unfolding in Brussels.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

The president's response should be required reading (emphasis added):

"It's always a challenge when you have a terrorist attack anywhere in the world. Particularly in this age of 24/7 news coverage, you want to be respectful and understand the gravity of the situation. But the whole premise of terrorism is to try to disrupt people's ordinary lives. And one of my most powerful memories, and one of my proudest moments as president, was watching Boston respond after the marathon. And when Ortiz went out and said, probably the only time that America didn't have a problem with somebody cursing on live TV, was when he talked about Boston and how strong it was and that it was not going to be intimidated. And that is the kind of resilience and kind of strength that we have to continually show in the face of these terrorists.

They cannot defeat America. They don't produce anything. They don't have a message that appeals to the vast majority of Muslims or the vast majority of people around the world. What they can do is scare and make people afraid. And disrupt our daily lives and divide us. And as long as we don't allow that to happen, we're going to be OK."

What Obama said today is true — many counterterrorism experts believe that terrorist groups like ISIS aim to terrorize us enough that we stop living our lives and start turning on each other.

A note is left in Brussels' Place de la Bourse after the March 22 terror attacks. Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images.

With attacks like this one, organizations like ISIS aim to exacerbate the divide between the West and the Muslim world, throw suspicion on refugees, and instigate reciprocal violence that helps them recruit.

It's evolving into one of their signature tactics — and tragically, sometimes it works.

Thankfully, many of the people of Brussels were having none of it today, coming together, offering rides to people who were stranded, and chalking messages of support in public plazas even as the dust from the attacks was still settling.

It's understandable to be scared in the wake of a terror attack. But it's when we let that fear goad us into shutting down or lashing out violently against those who don't deserve it that bad things happen.

Obama is right that ISIS wants us to be scared. They want us to be looking over our shoulders all the time. Most depressingly, they want us to be suspicious of our neighbors.

Obama is right that sometimes the most powerful weapon we have is to refuse to give into fear. On days like these, that can mean the best way to not let the terrorists win is plain and simple:

Play ball.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

More

Powerful images emerge as the world reacts to Brussels attacks.

A quote by Fred Rogers has become a go-to reaction to disaster.

On March 22, 2016, more than 30 people were killed in terrorist attacks in Belgium's capital city, Brussels.

Terrorist organization ISIS claimed responsibility for the destruction.


Airport staff hug as passengers are evacuated from Zaventem airport after the attack. Photo by Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images.

There's a famous quote by Fred Rogers about looking for "helpers" amid disaster.

It can be applied to just about any devastating situation, but it always seems especially poignant after a terrorist attack:

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world." — Fred Rogers

It's easy to look at disaster and see the worst in people. It's easy to question your faith in humanity after such an event. It's easy to become completely and totally apathetic, to let cynicism win. But if you look closely, you can see the helpers Mister Rogers spoke of.

The response to this morning's terrorist attack in Belgium is no different: Helpers are out there.

A message written on the ground near the city's center reads "Brussels is beautiful." Photo by Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images.

Using hashtags like #IkWillHelpen ("I want to help") and #PorteOuverte ("open house"), the people of Brussels offered shelter to those with nowhere to stay.

After the attacks, people were left without housing and without a means to travel elsewhere. This is what makes the #IkWillHelpen and #OpenHouse hashtags such a necessary, loving response in the face of terror. Embracing strangers instead of shunning them will always be the most human response to tragedy.


Public transportation quickly became overwhelmed, so the helpers of the world did what they could to ensure safe passage.

Cars began picking up strangers at bus stops, giving them rides.


A hashtag popped up for people willing to help organize a carpool.

People leave messages and flowers outside the stock exchange building in the city center of Brussels. Photo by Nicolas Maeterlinck/AFP/Getty Images.

Others created tributes to the victims in solidarity with neighboring France, which was struck by an attack last November.

Two images picturing the color of the Belgian flag — a drawing by French cartoonist Plantu and the famous Belgian comic character Tintin — in tribute to victims of triple bomb attacks in the Belgian capital. Photo by Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images.

A woman leaves a bouquet of flowers next to a French national flag with the words "Paris Brussels Solidarity" at the fence of the Belgian embassy in Paris. Photo by Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images.

Politicians around the world weighed in, but two statements stand out in highlighting the importance of compassion, understanding, and, yes, helpers.

The first comes from U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, praising the helpers of Belgium:

"One of the goals of these terrorists is to drive us apart through fear and hatred. The people of Belgium are reminding us why terror will never succeed. They are providing shelter to tourists and strangers throughout the country, and the hashtag '#ikwillhelpen,' which means 'I want to help' in Flemish, is trending throughout Europe."

A sign reading "Share your love" stands at a memorial at Place de la Bourse in Bordeaux, France. Photo by Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images.

The other is from President Obama, speaking from Cuba:

"We stand in solidarity with them in condemning these outrageous attacks against innocent people. We will do whatever is necessary to support our ally Belgium in bringing to justice those who are responsible. We must be together regardless of nationality or race or faith in fighting against the scourge of terrorism. We can and we will defeat those who threaten the safety and security of people all around the world.”

A Belgian flag reads "We are all Brussels" at the Place de la Bourse memorial. Photo by Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images.

Sometimes the world can be a dark place. What's important is that we don't forget about the light that follows it.

We can't fight hate with more hate. We must look to those who refuse to respond out of hatred or vengeance, but instead with a message of love and peace. That's how humanity wins.